Health Information Technology (HIT)

What is health information technology?

Health Information Technology (HIT) refers to the process and practices of managing sensitive patient data in ways that protect the patient while ensuring the appropriate distribution of this information to various healthcare professionals. Trained and certified professionals are essential to this process as the demands of privacy and the increasingly complex nature of health care delivery make the distribution and sharing of information a difficult and delicate process.

The individuals who pursue HIT training are health information technology professionals also referred to as health information technicians and medical records technicians. Heath information technology works to improve systems by streamlining data flow, reducing paper documents, reducing opportunity for error, increasing efficiency of communication between health or reimbursement entities, improving delivery of care by eliminating duplication of diagnostics or procedures and improving systems in such a way that costs by way of error, duplication, and overhead for records maintenance and storage are reduced or eliminated.

Why has HIT grown so much in recent years?

Legislation has mandated increased access to health care, which will drive the demand for more efficient information systems as more carriers and providers seek to manage the data for more patients. In addition, the Health Information for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act established programs under the Medicare and Medicaid systems that offer incentives for certain providers to improve the quality and efficiency of their records maintenance and information distributions systems, principally by encouraging use of an electronic health record (EHR), as well as adopting standards for the maintenance and distribution of those records.

The integrity of a health care organization’s data management and record keeping is dependent on individuals who understand the principles of data quality, legal and information security standards and medical information coding. The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 was transitioned into the health care industry between 2003 and 2006, and mandated certain standards to protect the privacy of an individual’s health care information. Health information technicians ensure that standards of privacy are maintained to ensure compliance with HIPAA standards while simultaneously ensuring that the agencies that require medical information to manage care or issue reimbursement are able to get it in a timely and secure manner.

What is driving the demand for health information technicians?

Health information technicians utilize the standards of international coding for diagnosis categories and procedures, and apply the principles of data management and to ensure compliance standards are maintained for the health care organizations they support. 

They work in the full array of medical environments, from private doctor’s offices to full-scale medical centers, and are also employed in non-medical environments where claims are processed or data management is administered.

The lack of qualified professionals with health information technology degrees is frequently cited as the a barrier to the establishment of electronic health records and other more advanced systems of record keeping and distribution, but as providers and insurers anticipate a leveling off in the amount of resource dollars available for health care, and as legislation places a cap on the amount of money on a medical claim that can be allocated for overhead and administration, efficient systems and improved record keeping become financial imperatives. Quality standards and penalties for errors or unnecessary duplication of services also drive medical facilities to want to improve the efficiency of their data management systems.

What is the HIPAA?

The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) establishes rigorous standards for maintaining the privacy of health care information, while ensuring inter-agency access for management of a patient’s health care across providers and insurance companies. The compliance standards for HIPAA are rigorous, and health care providers and insurance companies face penalties for failing to maintain these standards. The HIT professional learns guidelines for security of information and compliance maintenance through their coursework in order to assume this role once they are certified.

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